How coronavirus has thrown football into chaos

Written by Samuel Brady (samuelb_30)

Sub-edited by Callum Ferguson

Photo credit: Marco Verch This image is available under Creative Commons 2.0.

The start of the new decade has been one for concern with the outbreak of the coronavirus dominating the headlines daily. The total number of cases now stands at over 100,000 across the globe, which has caused the World Health Organization to prepare for a possible pandemic.

The outbreak has caused panic and chaos to many but just how has it been affecting football and if the spread continues what further issues could arise?

The first cases of the virus were detected in China and meant the CSL (Chinese Super League) was the first victim of the outbreak. The new CSL season was due to start in early February but all games were suspended, and the league was postponed indefinitely as the country came to a standstill.

Odion Ighalo’s loan move to Manchester United from Shanghai Shenhua was thrown into doubt over concerns about the striker’s health resulting in him having to be quarantined before being able to join up with his new teammates.

Other players have not been so lucky with four professional players in Denmark having contracted the virus, which has led to Brondby IF quarantining 13 of their staff including ex-Danish international Thomas Kahlenberg and the sides assistant manager.

The potential threat to players as well as supporter’s health has resulted in many leagues deciding to play fixtures behind closed doors such as in Italy’s Serie A with Italy currently being one of the worst-hit nations with over 6,000 confirmed cases, only second behind China.

Many feel the decision to continue playing fixtures at all is ‘irresponsible’, according to Italy’s sporting minister who believes the league should be suspended whilst the outbreak is tackled. Many other nations have also taken the decision to play matches behind closed doors including Greece and Bulgaria.

In other countries such as Switzerland, the Government banned all large public events due to the outbreak, resulting in Swiss Super League games being postponed. South Korea, have also suspended their domestic season and a number of clubs around Europe have banned players engaging in public events such as signing sessions.

England’s outbreak hasn’t been as bad as some nations, but precautions are taking place across the English leagues. The Premier League and the EFL have banned the traditional routine of pre-match handshakes in an attempt to reduce physical contact between players. The handshake ban has been applied to non-league and grassroots football as well as by the FA with most players now just greeting each other with a friendly nod.

Europe’s top competitions, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, have taken measures in ensure the safety of the public with PSG’s second leg round of 16 tie against Borussia Dortmund being played behind the scenes unlike Tottenham’s away trip to Germany to face RB Leipzig which has been given the go-ahead to be played in front of supporters.

UEFA say they will remain in “constant contact” with regional and international authorities as Inter Milan and Atalanta’s Europa League campaigns are likely to be impacted by Italy’s outbreak, as well as Wolves and Olympiakos’s game which could be affected due to the ban of supporters in stadiums in Greece.

As the outbreak looks set to continue it has brought up many questions about future sporting events with none bigger than the European Championships this summer. It will be the first time in the competition’s history where rather than a set host country it will be a pan-European tournament with 12 host cities being chosen by UEFA.

COVID-19 has put the event at serious risk due to the virus’ nature to be easily spread amongst mass numbers of people. Factor in that most European countries have been hit and the sheer number of people and spectators the tournament attracts from all over the world it could result in huge amounts of people to be infected.

UEFA are already aware of the speculation over whether or not Euro 2020 will go ahead but have so far not taken any immediate decision over the schedule and will continue to monitor the situation.

How long the suspensions and bans last is completely dependent on how quickly the authorities can contain the spread but like normal life, sport remains on hold for now.

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